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Kathy Thackray - 13 May 2014

Kathie Thackray made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 13/05/2014.

Good afternoon councillors. My name is Kathie Thackray and I am going to speak about our tourism branding.

Tourism is now the main economic activity in our region. It has overtaken the combined contributions of the traditional industries of fishing, forestry and agriculture.

This region has the extraordinary good fortune of being one of Tourism Australia's top 16 nature tourism destinations – Australian Coastal Wilderness. Australia's Coastal Wilderness extends from Narooma to Lakes Entrances in Victoria. As one of the 16, it stands alongside Australian tourism icons like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Kakadu. As such, it is marketed internationally by Tourism Australia.

The average growth in tourism in the region over the last 4 years has been 21.5%, - compared with national growth of 2.7%! 21.5%.

Tourism research shows that across Australia's top 12 international markets (ie: inbound tourists) and the domestic market, the primary motivators for travel is 'nature'. Australia's distinctive natural environment, its unique animals, forests and undeveloped landscapes are the main reason people travel to the popular places in this country.

Tourism in this region is critical for social cohesion. It is labour intensive and every tourism dollar expended by visitors multiplies through the broader economy. This results in improved public facilities and services and improved infrastructure – enjoyed by the whole community.

Recognition of the economic value of our nature tourism brand should provide a powerful incentive to protect and preserve the natural assets of the region.

When I contacted a member of the steering committee for Australian's Coastal Wilderness, Bruce Leaver, he said and I quote: "Tourism is fiercely competitive. Other areas will take our market if we stumble. One guaranteed way to stumble, is to trash the brand. If the brand is 'nature', undeveloped landscape and pristine coastline, with rich forests and National Parks, the fastest way to trash it and damage the tourism industry, is to approve intrusive developments and foster activities that are the antithesis of the nature tourism message we are selling."

 Many in tourism feel that tourists to Australian Coastal Wilderness and "the nature coast" are not coming to our area to learn better ways to kill animals. They are not remotely interested in knowing how to butcher something they have shot. They would not be interested in the job of a taxidermist or knowing how to skin an animal.

They come to enjoy this coastal strip of wilderness. We need to safeguard it and the brand. Our local businesses need our support. Eurobodalla tourism has been developing and advertising walking and cycling trails. Promoting guns and gun fairs could well destroy our "branding". And what then? What economic analysis has been done by ESC as to the long-term effects on tourism of Huntfest.

We are genuinely concerned. In 2012, Huntfest was to have "no guns". This year it is "guns – but no ammunition". What if there is more lobbying by the South Coast Hunters Club. It is only a very small group but they seem to be wielding a lot of power. Has council thought beyond this year? Is there a limit to what you will agree to? Is this region to become a hunting destination? Is a shooting complex on the agenda? Many people are frightened as to the future of their bushwalking and cycling pursuits. Many B&B's and holiday unit operators are concerned as to their long-term future incomes.

(Data from Tourism Research Australia provided to me by Bruce Leaver, steering committee Australia's Coastal Wilderness)


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